Starving Polar Bear

Starving Polar Bear
Where phantom bears hunt vanished ice. Image by Andreas Weith - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Maggie's First Thanksgiving

Biggleswade, England
November 28, 2019

Here it’s just Thursday 
in the restored brick cottage 
out back of Shortmead House 
on the northern fringe of Biggleswade. 

After a week of grey and rain 
the pocked lane is laced with puddles 
down past the football pitch. I slip 
into six layers and trudge into town 

to stock up on sweet potatoes. I buy 
a box of brown sugar, a vial of vanilla, 
pecans and coconut for the casserole 
your great-grandma used to make. 

Tonight our feast is beans over toast,
jacket potatoes sprinkled with cheddar, 
chased with an ale and a savouring 
of sticky toffee pudding and cream.

Tradition can wait until Saturday 
when Heike comes up from London 
and your Mimi swings by to join momma 
and daddy, Gramma and Grandpa 

crowded around the kitchen table.
Late in the night you’ll nurse milk 
fortified with cornbread and casseroles, 
flavoured with pumpkin and pecan pies.  

Nothing says Thanksgiving like expats 
offered food on a late Fall night 
to share in the warmth of newborn life 
and family that spans two shores.

Thanks to a saint from south Georgia –
a Biggleswade Thanksgiving feast 
donated to the new parents 
by Georgia expat Sara Miller.

Shortmead Lane, Biggleswade, England

Tuesday, December 3, 2019


When the Divine dreams of a new Eden, 
    creation remakes the world. 
Streams of contingencies interweave 
    as causation braids a trillion threads: 

An orbit elongates, eruptions abate, 
    neighboring stars go nova, or don’t. 
An ocean expands and currents subside.
    A killer comet veers wide of its mark. 

Then in the shifting course of time 
    there comes a confluence  
when dreams condense to creation 
    and Gaia rises to cleanse the world. 

She summons the storm clouds, 
    unleashes the knife-edged winds, 
breaches the levied flood plains, 
    and sweeps the jettied coast. 

She packs the high snow fields 
    till mountain peaks glisten 
and glaciers scrape the jagged slopes, 
    carve passes, and water the plains. 

She cracks the concrete ruins. 
    Wastelands revert to meadows, 
crumbled tarmac blossoms with flowers, 
    and culverts run clear. 

Southern seas are ringed with reefs 
    and Arctic waters teem with krill. 
Forests shade artesian springs 
    and grasslands cover blackened soils. 

The tree of life grows wild. 
    Tribes of leviathans roam the oceans, 
clans of behemoths patrol the ice, 
    gray sage-birds weave epics on tropical nights.

The world is a wilderness dotted with parks 
    where Earth-keepers tend garden reserves 
and nurseries for emerging minds 
     that will bless a billion years. 

Thomas Cole - The Garden of Eden

Wednesday, October 30, 2019


I was born on the edge of the empire of wealth 
and raised in the spell of wonder. 
The beauty of earth was a birthright.

I played in tame creeks 
and wandered fields of broom sedge. 
My scent was dirt and dog fennel. 

I biked through sun showers 
and rode home through rainbows. 
I roamed about my Father’s world 

and Gaia was my guardian –
I heard her whisper
but did not know her name.

I came of age in church basements 
humming Friday night folk songs 
and Sunday morning hymns. 

Brotherhood was my soundtrack 
and peace was a march away. 
I thought we’d change the world 

but The Age of Aquarius was just a song. 
Now it’s half a century since Apollo 8 
witnessed a Christmas Eve Earth-rise. 

I’ve seen fifty springs of Earth Days, 
and fifty years of EPA. 
Fifty years since leaded gas, 

since DDT, since rivers burned.
I watched brown haze lift, 
shad runs recover, bald eagles return. 

I watched the population soar. 
As we broke the land to feed the billions, 
four became eight on the way to twelve.

I watched the temperature creep. 
I saw oceans acidify, glaciers retreat, 
and growing zones stray north. 

I watched the good earth diminish. 
Life hollowed out. On my watch 
a million species winked away. 

Now I hear the whisper of Gaia again – 
her hymns in the trill of insect wings, 
her psalms in the chorus of toads. 

She calls in the song of a mourning dove 
in the still of a summer day. 
She speaks in the shimmering leaves – 

Gentle spirits, persevere, 
for you are the balm of the earth, 
the dawn mist in a withered land. 

Let the fierce engage the fierce 
and let the vicious contend. 
They have their role when troubles come.

But you, beloved, soft as water, 
you are called to be her witness. 
Be still and inherit the earth. 

Earthrise, December 1968, Image by Apollo 8

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

A Time to Abide

She drifts into cities on fertile winds, 
probes cracks with pollen and spores. 
She settles into soft places.

Sterility offends 
so she seeps through seals,
penetrates pipes and wires. 

She bathes in neon green lagoons. 
In the sludge of industrial waste ponds
she knits new enzymes. 

She sleeps in seed-banks 
beneath the streets of Rio 
and ring-roads of Beijing. 

She breathes the smog of Karachi, 
the dust of Dhaka and Delhi. 
She filters the grit of Mexico City. 

She creeps into slums of São Paulo,
Kolkata, Jakarta, Lagos, Lahore. 
She sinks deep roots. 

She savors Manhattan shadows 
where pavement ants eat pizza crumbs 
and coyotes scavenge epicurean rats. 

On the ragged margins of Midwestern farms 
and pockets of the once-Great Plains, 
in exhausted Southern cotton fields 

and ashes of ancient rain forests 
torched for soy and palm 
she waits. 

As she watches the modern world go down 
beneath the weight of eight billion souls 
she sings to the heart of humanity –

Heal, for time is a balm 
and as long as Sun and Earth endure, 
in the broken ages, Gaia abides. 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

To Heal an Epoch

Do not despair for Earth, beloved. 
    All you know will pass away 
but in the mortal life of Gaia 
    a billion years are yet to be. 

With her a hundred thousand years 
    is as a half a day, 
and a cycle of seasons is just a beat 
    of the pulse that cleanses the world. 

So look to the sea where her cycles reset. 
    Consider the coastal ocean 
where infusion of open sky 
    meets the dissolution of land. 

It happens atom by atom in the vastness
    of a droplet where a thousand algae 
live out their lives basking the paths
    of sunbeams, drawing carbon from the sea.

Out of a thousand, a broken cell settles
    out of the sunlit realm, down through dark
abyssal depths it drifts to oblivion,
    atoms entombed on the ocean floor. 

As seasons crowd the centuries 
    in the stately drift of millennia, 
what happens to microscopic lives 
    clears the air and heals the sea. 

For as sure as aged detrital muck 
    locks carbon into hardened rock; 
as sure as winter’s freeze and thaw 
    and summer squalls carve paths in stone; 

as sure as the Rockies erode to the Plains, 
    sink into seas and rise again; 
as sure as the God of second chances 
    is God of seventy times seven chances – 

Gaia will weave an Eden again. 

Thursday, August 1, 2019

A Summons

Anthropocene: the dream of dominion 
    achieved. The sweat of our forebears 
subdued the earth. The epoch of Adam
    is done. Today the new age groans 

for a sickness shadows the lands 
    and nets of death deplete the seas. 
So scour the scriptures for holy words 
    to tend the afflictions of earth. 

Listen – set aside your books to hear  
    she speaks her truths in feral tongues. 

In the howling crown of a wildfire, 
    in the crumbling face of a glacier, 
in the cracking of ice on the Arctic Sea 
    a summons comes to humankind. 

Go make an ark of living earth 
    woven from grasslands, rivers, and trees, 
ten thousand arks across the globe, 
    refugia fit for Gaia. 

Make an ark of the boreal forest, 
    an ark of the chaparral. 
Set aside the high desert, 
   keep the tundra intact. 

Consider each reef a cathedral 
    and every swamp a sanctuary. 
Let lawns revert to meadows 
    and plant a billion trees 

for a fever flushes the face of Gaia, 
    her time of trials has come. 
Within this age an Eden awaits. 
    In your hands, the seed. 

 Image of Lighthouse, Ribbon Reefs, Great Barrier Reef,
by Richard Ling <>

Saturday, July 27, 2019

On the Idea of Otters

Athens, Georgia
December 21, 2015

Once again I do not see otters 
as I walk my old dog west 
on the loop trail through winter 
woods to shoals and sunset.

I scan the width of gray chop, 
the white froth hugging rocks, 
the slipstreams of submerged 
logs, but all I see is surface 

churn. The sun sets somewhere 
behind layers of gray as I listen 
for the tell-tale chirp. All is quiet 
save the steady shush, so I turn 

back east and follow the brown 
bounce of a hungry dog heading 
toward dinner. Today I missed 
the otters again, though I searched 

with due sincerity. But once on 
an otherwise scripted morning 
in the midst of an unremarkable 
year I watched a romp of river 

puppies swim upstream into fall. 
The sun froze mid-sky as I stood 
on the bank for minutes or hours 
memorizing whiskers and wakes.

Wonders once revealed remain 
hidden. We may glimpse visions.
We may tiptoe into thin terrain, 
but all we keep is absence and 

what spirit haunts an afterglow.
Today I walked an old dog down 
a winter trail to an empty river 
and muffled sunset, and found

they suffice, for I carry the image 
of otters. Ever since their presence 
etched an ordinary day, it’s now 
enough to know they are there.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

A Daddy's Wedding Meditation

for Sarah Ambrose and Alan Haxton 
Biggleswade, England, January 17, 2019
Athens, Georgia, June 8, 2019

Are the years so short? We blink 
and decades fly. How nimbly 
the little ones move through our lives 
to catch their world in stride.

    Hers was a world of neighborhood lawns, 
    small dogs and swing sets, 
    story books strewn on sofas and chairs, 
    teddy bears piled in pillow forts.  

    It was slippery slides in the summertime, 
    long firefly evenings with friends, 
    dancing to oldies on Daddy’s arm, 
    riding shotgun with Mama out to the farm. 

    There were sunny beaches running with cousins, 
    tidal flats at island’s end, 
    plastic buckets brimming with shells, 
    elaborate castles dug in the sand. 

    From holding hands while hopping waves 
    to body surfing with uncles and aunts 
    and twilight strolls along the strand 
    under a technicolor sky. 

    And those long night drives 
    cocooned in the car’s back seat 
    hurling up the highway to a house 
    bursting with grand-baby love – 

    blue silky snuggles on Grandma’s lap, 
    going on a bear hunt camped on a couch, 
    Grandpa reading on Christmas Eve, 
    cookies for Santa next to the tree. 
      Sometimes in unguarded moments 
      a daughter’s daddy idly dreams 
      about his little girl’s groom-to-be –
      what grounds his life today? 
        He was a boy of Bedfordshire, 
        child of the gentle English terrain, 
        a quiet toddler with dimples and smiles, 
        best pals with fur-brother, Buster. 

        The sweetest smell of childhood 
        was the scent of grease on overalls 
        and boiler-room suits worn by his dad.
        He hugged those legs every day at the door. 

        His husband-potential was praised at four. 
        This earnest, curious, nursery-school boy 
        grew into comics and colorful jokes 
        which he shared for giggles with Mum. 

        There were hours of play at the skatepark. 
        This youth tattooed with amazing bruises 
        manned up enough for a pink guitar, 
        strumming riffs in a grunge-rock band.

        They hit the road in a family car 
        crammed with amps and drums 
        and dreams, four gangly teens 
        driven to gigs by a mum.

        When he ran, he aimed for marathons 
        and found his pace in life. 
        He became the grown-up go-to kid, 
        the one who never lets you down.

          The odds were always astronomical.
          A thousand synchronies seemed to converge 
          on that ugly-jumper Christmas bash.
          Neither came costumed, but he made her laugh 

          then assumed the role of ambassador, 
          guide to the culture of pub-quiz nights 
          and cozy board-game evenings with friends. 
          He even ate vegetarian. 

          And so they became a couple.
          There were pancake dinners in Biggleswade 
          and King’s Cross breakfast dates,
          goofy humor and, somehow, ducks. 

          And those long, loping countryside runs 
          through a green English spring 
          on small lanes and forest paths 
          ending with afternoon tea. 

          For her, it took an Englishman 
          with dimples, scruff, and easy grin. 
          For him, the grace of a big-city girl 
          grown out of the college-town South. 

            In this is the founding of households – 
            every day to love anew. The old 
            will glisten again with the dew, 
            the spent and withered will bloom, 

            and the love that grounded your childhood, 
            the love that united your lives 
            will incline your hearts to happiness.
            Wherever you dwell will be home.

            Photo by David Noah, Watkinsville, GA

            Thursday, May 16, 2019

            Lament for a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

            State Botanical Garden, Athens, Georgia
            April 25, 2019

            He died in the height of a Georgia spring 
            on a garden morning green as Eden 
            when the slant of sunlight warms the wings
            and lifts a feast of flying insects. 

            Far from his tropical winter retreat, 
            he had crossed the Gulf on a perilous night 
            and followed the unfolding canopy north,
            drawn toward summer breeding grounds. 

            But never made it. In a spell of delight 
            he dipped below a break in the woods, 
            swooping and swerving for food, for joy. 
            Wide blue skies were in his sight. 

            The end was abrupt. 
            He banked hard into high glass –
            dead before he hit the ground. 
            Rose-breasted beauty fell at my feet. 

            I cradled his warmth in my aging hands 
            to will his broken body back. My hope 
            was vain billions fall in the flyways 
            in a world diminished bird by bird.